Disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti on Thursday pleaded guilty to several federal charges in California and admitted to stealing millions of dollars from clients.
The jailed Avenatti, acting as his own primary counsel, pled guilty to four counts of wire fraud and one count of endeavoring to obstruct administration of the Internal Revenue Code.
Avenatti admitted to “receiving money on behalf of clients into client trust accounts, misappropriating the money, and lying to the clients about receiving the money or, in one case, claiming that the money had already been sent to the client,” according to statement from federal prosecutors.
In the tax-related charge, Avenatti admitted to keeping $5 million in payroll taxes, prosecutors said, as owner Global Baristas US LLC, which operated Tully’s Coffee.
Avenatti entered his change in plea with no agreement with prosecutors, meaning U.S. District Court Judge James Selna will have maximum leeway in sentencing Avenatti on Sept. 19 in Santa Ana.
Avenatti, who wore a gray sweatshirt and khaki pants in court, told the judge that he “misappropriated and misused” money meant for his clients and “acted corruptly” in his dealings with the IRS.
If the judge were to give Avenatti a maximum sentence on all counts and run them consecutively, it could total 83 years — though that’s unlikely to happen.
The defendant said he hopes to receive a sentence that’s “drastically less.”
Even after Thursday’s hearing, Avenatti is still facing 31 other counts for various charges that include wire fraud, bank fraud and various tax-related offenses, prosecutors said.
“The government is reviewing the case to determine how it will move forward after today’s guilty pleas,” prosecutors said. If federal prosecutors decide to go forward with the remaining charges, then the Sept. 19 sentencing would be cancelled, officials said.
An attorney who has acted as Avenatti’s legal advisor could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.
The defendant is already in custody for previous convictions involving his law practice.
A federal judge in New York City, earlier this month, sentenced Avenatti to four years in prison for pocketing money from a publisher that was supposed to go to Daniels for her book, “Full Disclosure,” which included details about an alleged affair she had with Donald Trump before he was president.
And back in 2020, Avenatti was convicted of extortion, transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort and wire fraud in connection with threats he made against the sports equipment giant Nike.
He was sentenced to 2½ years behind bars for those crimes involving Nike.
Avenatti is currently a resident of FCI Terminal Island in Southern California, with a release date of Jan. 27, 2026, according to Bureau of Prison records.
David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.
The Associated Press